Twentyfour years have passed after the events of Crysis 2, and CELL has been hard at work while Prophet was nicely tucked away into a powerful EMP sarcophagus that kept his nanosuit inactive. The megacorporation encased the whole city of New York into a nanodome in order to cover-up its attempts to gain control of the technology left behind by the Ceph, triggering a radical climate change that turned the city into a strange urban jungle where the wildlife has taken over the ruined skyscrapers.
Luckily a team of his old companions manages to release Prophet, and the nanosuit-armored supersoldier can finally take his sweet time to settle some old scores, armed of determination and quite a few new and interesting toys.
While many will deem the plot unimportant for a first person shooter, Crytek put quite a lot of effort in creating a rather complex plot for the Crysis series, and this may actually disorient a few players, as the jump from Crysis 2 to Crysis 3 is rather sizable, not just in years, but also because quite a few important facts happened between the two games.
Crysis 3‘s plot tries to bring more relatable characters into the picture compared to the previous game, but paradoxically it falls slightly short of making them really likable. In comparison, the real protagonist of Crysis 2 was New York itself, and I could go out on a limb to say that the city was easily more relatable and interesting than whoever we find in the third chapter, where it also loses its emotional impact being almost unrecognizable.
Add to that the fact that the plot twists are grossly predictable and that the single player campaign is radically shorter than the one we found in its predecessor, and we get a weaker story that falls just short of doing real justice to what Crysis 1 and 2 had built up.
Moving past the slightly lackluster plot, though, we can easily notice that the game finds luster in other areas, and plenty of it. It’s hard not to notice Crysis 3’s visuals, especially on PC, where every little trick of the CryEngine 3 has been pulled out of Crytek’s sleeve in order to make quite a few jaws drop, including mine.
Environmental design is what makes the game stand out the most from the crowd. While character models are definitely detailed and well designed, especially in their textures, levels are simply a joy for the eyes. Everything is rich and lush. Even the grass is probably the best I’ve ever seen in video game.
Add to that an absolutely masterful work with lighting and shading, and you get what’s without a doubt the prettiest game that ever made my PC flex its processing muscle. And that’s something you have to keep in mind, unless you play on consoles (giving up a sizable percentage of the graphical bells and whistles), you will need a powerful gaming PC to play Crysis 3 at it’s maximum level of detail, even if it’s still definitely enjoyable if you’re forced to shave off some of the most advanced effects.
The only small flaw I found in the visuals is a slight aliasing problem with some of the explosions, but that’s so negligible that’s barely worth mentioning, and in no way brings down the wonderful job Crytek managed to do with Crysis 3‘s looks, of which you can catch a glimpse in 122 screenshots included in the gallery just below.
The audio of the game is quite strong as well, even if it doesn’t get to the extreme quality offered by the graphics. The score features a large variety of tunes that mostly work very well in setting the atmosphere subtly, without overpowering the action. While that’s definitely a good thing in most occasions, in some moments of the game when you would expect something slightly more powerful I did feel the lack of a few really epic tracks.
Voice acting is definitely adequate, and while most secondary characters fail to really stand out, that’s not the voices’ fault. You could say voice acting is actually the saving grace of quite a few of them, and I guess that says it all.
The big question, though, is if gameplay manages to stand on the same level of the games’s marvelous visuals. To be fair, griven the graphical glitz that’s a nigh impossible task, but Crysis 3 does manage to have a few very relevant perks.
The first and most noticeable is definitely the Predator Bow, that has been pretty much the poster boy of the game, for a good reason too. The Crysis series is strongly based on stealth and what’s more appropriate for that than a completely silent weapon that will one-shot almost everything you’ll aim it at.
Not only it’s extremely fun to play with (bows do tend to be between the best toys in this kind of game, as FarCry 3 very aptly demonstrated) but it’s very effective and it creates a lovely and slower-paced diversion from the usual frantic gameplay of the usual shooter.
If I had to find a single flaw in the bow gameplay it would be that it’s almost overpowered. You can regulate on at three different draw weights. When you set it to the maximum you can pretty much murder anything besides the most armored Ceph with a single shot, regardless of where you hit. That’s a bit over the top considering that the speed disadvantage of of maximum draw weight is really negligible, making the other settings almost moot besides a few very rare situations.
Despite that, you’re almost guaranteed to have a lot of fun with this big, lethal toy, and I can see a lot of people using it almost exclusively for the whole game, especially due to the flexibility given by the special arrowheads and by the ability to recover normal arrows.
While the visor isn’t new to the Crysis series it’s one of the elements that benefits from the most improvements from the second chapter of the saga. Now it’s more powerful and better integrated with the tasks you can perform, allowing you to track enemies easily and plan your moves ahead. It’s invaluable for those that want to rely on stealth gameplay and actually interacts very nicely with the story, almost giving the nanosuit its own personality and way to communicate.
You probably noticed that I started with mentioning two tools that see their best use during stealth gameplay, and that’s indeed one of the strongest areas of the game. While you can definitely go in guns blazing sowing fiery death and explosive destruction in most situations, it’s definitely less enjoyable, and you’d miss one of the elements that most distinguish Crysis 3 from the rest of the genre.
If you remove the stealth factor, the game remains indeed a competent but not exceptional shooter, relying mostly on graphics to impress, but luckily you do have your cloaking nanosuit and your faithful bow, giving Crysis 3 the legs it need to stand on its own between its peers.
The multiplayer portion of the game is nicely featured, with eight modes (even if some of them are quite similar to each other) that prove mostly enjoyable, even thanks to the variety and flexibility granted by stealth and armor, that carry over from the single player campaign, even if the mechanics are slightly different. They surely ad some tactical depth to the usual run and gun that you can find everywhere else in the genre.
Hunter is probably the most interesting and iconic mode. Two players start as the Nanosuit-geared hunters, while the rest of the bunch is put in the expendable boots of CELL fodder. Every CELL operative killed by the hunters becomes a hunter himself, in an exhilarating game of tag. It’s actually quite tense, especially for the hunted, as the hunters have infinite stealth energy, so they’re very difficult to see unless they attack or their shadow gives them away.
Paradoxically, while the bow is borderline overpowered in single player, where the enemies move in predictable patterns, it’s very hard to be successful with it in multiplayer, where your opponents will actually make an effort to avoid being slaughtered. Once mastered, though, it probably becomes the most satisfying weapons to use. Possibly even more than in the single player campaign.
Ultimately Crysis 3 offers a competent – while not exceptional – FPS gameplay spiced up by a definitely more interesting stealth action component. Unfortunately many elements seem to be considerably downsized compared to the previous chapter of the series, and the story feels a bit rushed specifically towards the end, falling a bit short of delivering the true climax that the series deserved.
That said, the fun factor is definitely still high, both in single player and in multiplayer, especially thanks to all the gadgets available to Prophet and his multiplayer counterparts, including the simply fantastic bow. Add to that the fact that you won’t find another game looking as good on the market (at least if you own a decently powerful gaming PC), and there are plenty elements to chose Crysis 3 over quite a few competing titles.
If I was judging this game as a tech demo for the Cryengine 3, I’d give it a ten out of ten. Unfortunately it’s not quite as good as a first person shooter. It’s definitely an enjoyable game, and it will make your jaw drop with its beauty and special effects, but excellence in almost everything else is still just a bit out of reach.